Still swim­ming against the cur­rent Ap­par­ently our prime min­is­ter was chant­ing your name dur­ing the Pride Parade. That must have been pretty cool. That was the first time a prime min­is­ter had walked in the parade. Were you sur­prised to find that out? How h

Olympic gold medal­list Mark Tewks­bury on the pres­sure of com­ing out as an ath­lete, his new gig at the Rio Sum­mer Olympics and Toronto Pride by Ron John­son

Richmond Hill Post - - News -

Mark Tewks­bury won a sur­prise gold medal in back­stroke at the 1992 Sum­mer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Six years later, he came out and set to work as a mo­ti­va­tional speaker and ad­vo­cate for LGBTQ rights, men­tor­ing young ath­letes amongst other things. This month, he’s head­ing to Brazil as part of the CBC team for the Rio Sum­mer Olympics. Post City caught up with him to talk about the Rio Games, com­ing out and how things have changed (or not) for LGBTQ ath­letes. Oh man, that’s what you’re start­ing with? Truly, it was quite some­thing for him to do that. It was a very ex­cit­ing mo­ment, and I am su­per proud of our great coun­try, ex­pe­cially with what’s go­ing on in the world, the at­ti­tude ex­em­pli­fied by our gov­ern­ment, busi­ness and the peo­ple of Canada. I know, yeah, and dou­ble so, as Justin has walked be­fore as a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment. It’s kind of sur­pris­ing, but we for­get. It was 1998 when I came out, and it was a huge deal. Be­ing gay in the ’80s and ’90s was not easy, and there were all kinds of rights be­ing fought for in all kinds of are­nas. It’s less than 20 years, but that’s easy to for­get. Well, leg­isla­tively let’s say, there has been a change in the Olympic char­ter, a non-dis­crim­i­na­tory change, which is huge in some ways. The spirit of sport still has a way to go, the prac­tise of that all the way through the sys­tem. But it has to start some­where, and the IOC [In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee] took a step in the right di­rec­tion. It’s still hard to name that many ath­letes right now that are openly gay go­ing into the Olympics. Still maybe on your fin­gers, yeah, that are out. But the world is re­ally chang­ing. This next gen­er­a­tion of hu­man be­ings has a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence of sex­u­al­ity and ex­po­sure to things. It’s not quite burst­ing through yet. There are lots of dif­fer­ent rea­sons for it. Just within the Olympic move­ment it­self, his­tor­i­cally, it was only for men. The struc­ture of sport is very hi­er­ar­chi­cal, very pa­tri­ar­chal. It’s a nod to an era gone by and re­ally not far from the tra­di­tional boys’ club. All those things by na­ture are ex­clu­sion­ary and hard to change with the power con­cen­trated in cer­tain hands. It was some­thing that came later. When it hap­pened, I was a per­son that did re­main fairly well-known af­ter the Olympics, and it be­came more and more dif­fi­cult to hide some­thing about my­self. I de­cided even­tu­ally that I had noth­ing left to lose, in a way. I never imag­ined I would share some­thing so pri­vate. It wasn’t a burn­ing de­sire. It just felt like it was chok­ing. Now, it has just had this in­cred­i­ble rip­ple ef­fect I’d like to avoid pre­dic­tions, hav­ing lived through pre­dic­tions. I mean, I think Ryan [Cochrane] is an amaz­ing con­tender and would be Canada’s win­ningest swim­mer if he gets his third medal in his third Games. I think the women’s pro­gram is su­per ex­cit­ing. Other coun­tries’ re­sults are start­ing to come in, and we are start­ing to see the whole field, and it is a re­ally com­pet­i­tive world right now. There is lot of tal­ent out there. I’m re­ally cu­ri­ous to see how these Games come to­gether and just sort of where we go from here as an Olympic move­ment. These games might be chal­leng­ing to tran­scend all the is­sues that seem to be out there still.

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